Tasked to identify National Park Mystery Spot 4, you were given these clues:
Standing tall in the middle
-VI feet all around
XI months & XIX days
CCLXXII smallest free forms in language
Here’s how this thing shakes out. Something stands tall in the middle. OK, but in the middle of what? If you know your Roman numerals, you are more than halfway to figuring it out.
“- VI feet all around” = minus six feet all around = “six feet under” all around. At this point, you may infer that this mystery spot involves lots of graves. Indeed it does; it’s in a cemetery. OK; something standing tall in the middle of a cemetery. But which cemetery?
This is where the rest of the numbers really come in handy.
• LXXVII years = 87 years = four score and seven years
• XI months & XIX days = 11 months and 19 days = November 19
• CCLXXII smallest free forms in language = 272 words
• CXX seconds = two minutes
You should be able to put this together and come up with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which was delivered on November 19 (1863), famously began with the words “four score and seven years ago,” was 272 words long, and took just over two minutes to deliver. The occasion was the dedication ceremony for the “Soldiers Cemetery” (formal name Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg) on Cemetery Ridge not far from the place where Pickett’s Charge was repulsed. Today this cemetery is called the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
You've identified the cemetery, and now the question can be phrased this way: What is – or was -- “standing tall in the middle” of the Gettysburg National Cemetery?
Depending on whether you look at this from the perspective of November 19, 1863 or from the perspective of the present, you can get two different defensible answers.
If you view it from the perspective of November 19, 1863, “standing tall in the middle” could refer to President Lincoln himself (since he was a tall man), or to the platform on which Lincoln and the other speakers stood during the dedication ceremony. Give yourself credit if you concluded that the mystery spot is the place where the Gettysburg Address was delivered. But if you champion that answer, you should be aware that no one knows exactly where the dedication site was, and we can be pretty sure it was not in the middle of the cemetery (which was then still incomplete, with many bodies yet to be disinterred from field graves for transfer to the cemetery).
There is another, even better answer. If you look at this question from the present-day perspective, the answer is the Soldier’s National Monument. This memorial occupies a central position in the cemetery, and quite literally “stands tall in the middle.”
I hope you had fun with this mystery spot quiz.